Studies are warning of new and potential risk factors for developing dementia later in life. One new piece of research has found a link between fatty liver and an increased risk for dementia
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing as many would believe.
It is a set of symptoms that develop when the brain is damaged by disease.
This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other.
When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behaviour and feelings can be affected.
There are many things that can increase a person’s chances of developing dementia.
These are known as risk factors and they include medical, lifestyle and environmental factors.
It is possible to avoid some risk factors, while others cannot be controlled.
A new study has found that those suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may be at increased risk of developing dementia.
Dementia risk factors
Studies are finding a number of risk factors for dementia
According to the research, published on July 13 in Neurology, researchers found people with this form of liver disease who also have heart disease or stroke may have an even higher risk of dementia.
To find this link, researchers looked at 30 years of national Swedish patient registry records and identified 2,898 people aged 65 and over who were diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Researchers then identified 28,357 people without the disease who were matched for age, sex and city of residence at the age of diagnosis.
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After an average of more than five years of follow-up, 145 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or 5%, were diagnosed with dementia, compared to 1,291 people without liver disease, or 4.6%.
Researchers adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes and found that when compared to people without liver disease, people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease had a 38% higher rate of dementia overall.
When looking specifically at vascular dementia caused by inadequate blood flow to the brain, researchers found people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease had a 44% higher rate than people without liver disease.
Researchers did not find a higher rate of Alzheimer’s disease.
People with liver disease who also had heart disease had a 50% greater risk of dementia.
Those who had liver disease and stroke had more than a 2.5 times greater risk of dementia.
What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol.
Symptoms of NAFLD include fatigue and pain in the abdomen.
The condition is said to affect up to 25% of people worldwide and is the most common chronic form of liver disease.
“Common risk factors for both non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and dementia include metabolic disorders like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity,” said study author Dr Ying Shang of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
He added: “So our study sought to determine if there was a link between this form of liver disease and a person’s risk of dementia, independent of these risk factors.
“Our study shows that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with the development of dementia, which may be driven mainly by vascular damage in the brain.
“These results highlight the possibility that targeted treatment of this form of liver disease and co-occurring cardiovascular disease may reduce the risk of dementia.”
Early symptoms of dementia
According to the NHS, early signs warning of your risk include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
- Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
- Being confused about time and place
- Mood changes.